A love of soap operas helps raise funds

Justin Mendoza works for KGO-TV, the ABC station in the Bay Area. He used his love of soap operas and a personal connection to find a fun way to inspire his coworkers to raise funds for Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Becoming a Walker
When his aunt died with Alzheimer’s in 2016, Justin shared the news with his coworker and mentor Randall Yip. As it turned out, Randall’s father, who died in 2004, also had Alzheimer’s. They talked about the disease and Randall mentioned Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

However, it wasn’t until Justin’s uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that he decided to Walk. “The first year I walked with Randall and his family,” shared Justin. “I loved the commitment and the energy at Walk.”

ABC7 Morning News Meteorologist Mike Nicco, and his wife, Barbara

Starting his own team
Justin had such a great time at the Walk that Randall encouraged him to start his own team in 2018. Specifically, Randall wanted him to start a staff team at KGO-TV.

With Randall’s help, Justin got permission from the general manager to start his team, ABC7 Memory Makers. “I created a flyer and posted it all around the station,” shared Justin. “We set a goal of $3,000 and started asking people to donate.”

“This was the first time the station had a group like this,” said Justin. “I included information about Walk in our weekly email.”

Seeking a celebrity endorsement
Justin is a fan of soap operas, specifically General Hospital. In 2018 there was a character on the show whose father had Alzheimer’s.

Knowing that this was a fun link between his coworkers and Walk, Justin came up with a great idea. He wanted actor Max Gail, who plays the character living with Alzheimer’s, to encourage people to join the ABC7 Memory Makers team.

Luckily for Justin he knew someone who could help. The previous general manager of KGO-TV, Bill Burton, was now the Senior Vice President for ABC Entertainment.

“I wrote a script and sent it to Bill,” shared Justin. “In my mind I thought it was a long shot, but I wanted to pump people up for Walk.”

Max Gail

An encouraging video
Bill wrote back right away to let Justin know that he would forward his script along to General Hospital. A few days later Justin received a video of Max encouraging people to join Justin’s team and to support the Walk.

“People were already donating, but having the video got people pumped,” Justin commented. “I am so grateful to Bill and Max for doing that video.”

You can view Max’s video here.

With the help of this video, ABC7 Memory Makers raised $3,150 last year, exceeding their goal.

Not deterred by the smoke
In November of 2018, smoke from the Camp Fire fires in Butte County obscured the San Francisco skyline. This didn’t stop the thousands of people who showed up to Walk that day.

“Last year there were the devastating wildfires,” Justin remembered. “We saw people wearing masks and could smell the smoke. Despite the conditions, it didn’t stop people from coming to the Walk.”

ABC7 Special Projects Producer, Jennifer Olney

The value of coming together
Justin looks back on Walk day with positivity: “listening to the people on stage talk about their connection to the disease is inspiring and relatable. I love the energy.”

“There is comfort in knowing you’re not alone,” shares Justin. “We appreciate everyone who takes the time to Walk, even if you don’t have a connection to Alzheimer’s.”

Justin goes on, “I love that everyone comes together to bring awareness and raise funds to find a cure.”

You can join Justin’s team, ABC7 Memory Makers, or form your own team and join us for the San Francisco Walk to End Alzheimer’s on November 9 at Pier 27 on the Embarcadero.

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